Which Linux Distros Are Better – Rolling or Fixed Releases?


The first time any of us got our first experience with the world of Linux and its distributions many years ago, all we knew was an OS named, Ubuntu. And of course, for reasons we all know, Ubuntu is still one of the first names that ring in the minds of many people when they hear anyone mention Linux.

As soon as I, in particular, began to get the hang of things, I realized Linux was a whole bigger world filled with GNU software, among other vital components that make up a working Linux distro. I also learnt about the system that is used to deliver updates for the Linux distros – rolling distribution, and fixed release distribution, and like everything we know in this world, they both have their cons and pros.

Rolling Distribution

Rolling distros are the ones that receive the newest apps and features as soon as they are released by its developers. A well know example of a rolling distro is Arch Linux. There are many Arch-based, Debian-based, Gentoo-based, and standalone rolling distros for you to pick from. This distro is therefore the better choice for you if you would like to have the latest features and services straight out of the production.

Fixed Release Distribution

Fixed release distros are also known as Point Release distributions. These type of distros receive update releases as versions which are pushed over previously specified time intervals. The apps and feature packages are developed in the time between two consecutive updates and then released via the inbuilt update feature in their various Linux distributions or as a combined ISO file. A significant difference is visible in the version numbers of the major upgrades. Take for example, Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus and the newer Ubuntu 16.10 Yakkety Yak.

So, which one is a better choice for you?

Rolling distros are a great option if you want to enjoy the treats developers provide. But hey, great things come at a price. In this case the price you will have to pay is the testing time for these updates. Rolling distributions usually house various bugs and vulnerabilities (even though they will eventually be taken care of before they could affect the general users).

For fixed release distros, all the features and updates are thoroughly tested before they are made available to users. Most consumer-focused Linux distros (e.g. Ubuntu) are based on fixed release update cycles. However, in the fixed release distros it is usually the case that any bugs and/or vulnerabilities that pass the testing phase undiscovered may be used to compromise the security once the update is released, so developers push security patches and minor updates every now and then in addition to the regular update cycle which proceeds at its normal pace.

Major fixed release distro versions may differentiate themselves by appearance, features and software. You need to upgrade to the next major version when it arrives while rolling distributions don’t have such upgrades to look forward to. There isn’t any major version number attached to Arch Linux the way there is for Linux Mint.

At the end of the day it is left to you to decide because it all boils down to preference. Let us know what your choice is in the comments section below.

About The Author
Martins Okoi
Computer Science enthusiasts with a passion for learning new things. In my spare time, I listen to music, read like a compiler, and learn like an A.I algorithm.

Leave a Response